Not far from the Polish town of Kolo, well known for being the headquarters of Wood-Mizer’s European sawmill manufacturing facilities, the Matusiak family has created their own family business at their home, in the quiet countryside and surrounded by a garden and wooden pavilions. A nearby quiet stream adds to the calm and tranquil atmosphere.
This is the enviable setting for the home and business built by Jerzy and Maria Matusiak. "When I was 17, I apprenticed at a large furniture company, and worked there for 13 years. There I mastered the intricacies of fine furniture making and I learned to love working with wood - a wonderful natural material," shares Jerzy.
In 1989, the Matusiaks founded their family business, and began their own adventure working with wood, although with humble beginnings. "We started with a bare plot of land, from scratch" Jerzy recalls. Not long after starting to make lumber with their home-built sawmill, the Matusiaks were visited by a Wood-Mizer technician from the local European headquarters. He examined their homemade sawmill, discussed their sawing needs and offered advice on the care of their blades before leaving.
"Three hours later we received a call from the Wood-Mizer factory with an unusual proposal. Wood-Mizer wanted to know if
they could loan us a sawmill for testing!" Jerzy shares. At first, Jerzy was disinclined to accept, feeling that he had enough work to do as it was. But his wife Maria persuaded him to try.
So in 2004, a LT15 sawmill with an electric motor was delivered to the Matusiak’s home. The main advantages of this machine for Jerzy was its unique simplicity: unlimited bed sections could be added to extend the sawing track, and Jerzy’s sawmill can cut logs up to 12 meters long. The cutting head moves down the bed rail, cutting logs into boards – one pass at a time. Producing boards of different sizes is done by simply raising or lowering the cutting head to the proper height.
"We tested this sawmill for three years. The Wood-Mizer engineers spent many hours here, and most of the improvements and changes to the LT15 design were first tried out in our yard." Jerzy recalls with a chuckle.
Since the release of this sawmill in 1997, more than 10,000 LT15 machines have been sold around the world, and over time new features and improvements were made that became standard on new machines. Some of the new features that now come with the LT15 are the electronic computerized Setworks, which automatically sets the thickness of the board, and an electric motor for raising and lowering the cutting head. Additional options to increase productivity can be added such as a
power feed and a debarker for removal of bark, dirt and rocks from the outside of logs.
"The LT15 sawmill is absolutely trouble free, and works like a clock. During all the time I have operated it, I did no repairs, there was no serious damage, and it just kept sawing for us," said Jerzy. After three years of testing the sawmill for Wood-Mizer, he decided it was time to buy it for himself. Currently, two of Jerzy and Maria’s sons operate the sawmill together – Rafal and Karol who are 32 and 28 respectively. They saw an average of 5-7 m3.
Their eldest son Pawel is also employed in the woodworking trade. "He has an imagination for woodworking, and builds perfect staircases," Maria shares with obvious pride. Two apprentices currently work with the Matusiaks, and since 1989 more than 50 students have learned woodworking through the company, and many of them went on to find professions in woodworking after their apprenticeships.
During the summer time the family produces structural lumber for roofs, and in winter they make unique products - bird
feeders, cages for rabbits, and kennels for dogs. These finished products are exported to Holland, England and Germany. They also build special folding stands for shops and vendors that are easy to transport and set up quickly. These stands are used to exhibit a vendor’s full range of products - birdhouses, birdfeeders, and drinking bowls for birds.
"Although the LT15 sawmill looks small, we cut 1700 cubic meters annually for our own needs and for customers." says Jerzy. During the summer months they work to saw extra material in preparation for the winter. The kiln dryer that Jerzy designed himself helps to increase the value and quality of their boards.
"Last year we produced two million wood tiles for roofs. This year the season has just started, but we already have an order for 500,000 tiles!"
Maria Matusiak is also a woodworker and an integral part of their overall success. "She has no equal in the carpentry shop. Nobody can keep up with her when she works – she can handle one thousand details an hour," Jerzy shares in praise of his wife.
When asked about how the family spends their free time, they laugh in unison: "Look at us in the garden – this is our real
resort. Home for us is the best place in the world. " Home is where family is, and each of their three sons have built their own homes in the neighborhood.
"We wake up around 7:30, have breakfast and start the day – everybody has something to do in our family business." It is apparent that they truly love their business, working together and always having something to do. Sometimes Jerzy goes fishing in his spare time and with the introduction of a new lake in the neighborhood, he is looking forward to being within a walking distance of his pastime.
54 year old, Jerzy laughs a lot and feels truly blessed with his family business. Many great authors have pondered the source of happiness, but the Matusiak family has found theirs to be centered around working together in a profession they mutually enjoy.